An Oklahoma high school hosts an annual “Reality Check” event for its students to teach them real-world skills that often get missed in the classroom. Yukon High School uses the event to impart lessons on budgeting so that they’re better prepared for problems they’ll face in their adult lives once they graduate. Frankly, more schools should be doing this!
- The whole process is simple but genius. The event works pretty simply. Each of the students is given a made-up annual income that’s totally random. From there, they have to visit various booths that represent costs that come up in everyday adult life, from housing, insurance, entertainment, clothing, and child care and choose how they’ll spend their budget.
- There are real people from each of the industries in the booths. It isn’t just a bunch of random people sitting in each of the booths – the event includes volunteers from the relevant industries. For example, “auto salesman sell the cars, bank officials run the bank, child care providers discuss child care.” One of the real estate agents even remarked that the “Reality Check” event helps them as well. “We actually learn a lot from the students too! After volunteering for several years at this event, we’ve gotten to see firsthand how the students’ decision-making processes have changed over the years,” said one volunteer.
- Many of the students were shocked at how quickly their money went. Until you’ve had to budget yourself and see the money going in and out of your account (imaginary or otherwise), it really is hard to envision how far your cash will stretch. Realizing that you can’t always afford everything you’d like when it comes down to it can be disheartening and also a little shocking.
- Kids just weren’t prepared for the realities of budgeting. When you hear that you have $35,000 a year, you would think you’re rolling in it. “Although they must visit every booth, they are empowered to make their own personal decisions. One ninth grader reflected, ‘I got $35,000 which I thought was really good, but now I’m down to $20 and still have bills…I may have gone a little crazy with the nice truck.’ Once they’ve paid their bills, the students who have money leftover receive a KitKat, while those with $0 left in their bank account receive a Zero bar,” Yukon High School said in a Facebook post.
- The lessons at every “Reality Check” are invaluable to the students. This may be a pretend exercise that seems rather simplistic but the lessons it imparts on the students can be incredibly long-lasting. “This is an opportunity for the students to gain a deeper understanding of how their parents live on a day-to-day basis. It really puts things in perspective and gives them some real world experience and therefore, a better idea of what to expect in the future” said YHS teacher, Darryl Andrews.